This is useful both for those who would like to hear the gospel as it is preached in the Bible, and also for those of us Christians who look to the Bible to find out what is the appropriate manner in which it should be preached. In particular we would like to see what was the content of the message of salvation and what issues were emphasized. Also is the issue of choice. Was the gospel presented without regards to choice or decision. Was it simply presented as information?
First is the issue as to what constitutes the gospel. If you open the Bible you notice there are four books call "the gospel" - gospel of course meaning "good news" in the Greek. Their content is primarily the ministry, teachings, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. A couple of them - Matthew and Luke also touch upon his birth and early years. To say the obvious - Jesus Christ is central to the gospel. But in light of the shallowness of the manner in which the gospel is often presented, let's be clear that what was presented was not merely the name "Jesus Christ", but also his life, his being the Son of God, his ministry, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection. For even Muslims claim to believe in a "Jesus", but their version of Jesus is significantly different than the historic Biblical Jesus.
The Bible warns us to not be gullible on this matter concerning the preaching of Jesus. Paul warns the Corinthians,"I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." 2Cor 11:3,4
What attributes and ideas about Jesus must one accept for it to be said that one believes in Jesus? Well of course we find out that for belief to be legitimate it goes beyond the realm of ideas. For Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."Matthew 7:21 And "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?"James 2:14 OK the faith that saves is an application oriented faith. We understand that. But object of faith is not the applications. So let's get onto the object of faith - Jesus Christ. What particular attributes and ideas about Jesus Christ make up the object of Christian faith?
The obvious answer is - whatever it is the Bible says of him. For if we say we believe what the Bible says of him here but not what it says there, we are not really believing in him at all. For example if one says he believes Jesus was the Messiah but not the Son of God (which is the Islamic position), then they don't believe in the Biblical Jesus. So also for those who claim to believe he is Lord but disagree with some of his teachings. Thus for one to say they believe in the Biblical Jesus is to agree with everything the Bible says of him - who he was, his instructions, his promises, his miracles, his death and resurrection.
Now there are those who claim to believe in Jesus but reject what his apostles say, or like Muslims those who claim that his apostles misrespresented Jesus. Jesus himself said, "I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me." John 10:20 If a person rejects what apostles say, Jesus himself said that such people (like Muslims) reject him as well. Likewise John the beloved says, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us." 1John 4:6
But concerning the content of the gospel, we see for example the Bible teaching that accepting Christ for who he was - his personhood - is essential for salvation.
The Person of Jesus
Son of God/Son of Man
1John 5:5 "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."
John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him."
John 8:23-28 And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Then they said to Him, "Who are You?" And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. "I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him." They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.
The Christ (Messiah)
1John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
His Divine Nature
John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Heb 1:2 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
His incarnation into human flesh
1John 4:2,3 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (John here is reacting against a gnostic cult which held that if Jesus were to be sinless he could not have inhabited human flesh. The Catholic church holds a related gnostic concept demanding that Mary could not have had a sinful nature to give birth to Jesus. And besides those cases, many if not most Christians today don't believe that Christ's flesh was Adamic - that is he was not tempted in all ways as we are.)
Rom 10:9 if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
His Teachings and Miracles
So also, as I said, accepting his teachings - doing what he says - is a part of what characterizes genuine faith. His miracles also affirm the gospel. Joh 10:25 "The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me" Joh 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. Such is the role of miracles in the presentation of the gospel. Acts 14:3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
His Death and Resurrection
Whenever we find the apostles preaching the gospel in the book of Acts - as well as in the New Testament letters we find that Jesus' death and resurrection are mentioned. Understanding and accepting the purpose of his death and the fact of his resurrection is essential to what constitutes genuine faith in Christ.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures 1Cor 15:3,4
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit 1Pet 3:18
This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2:23,24
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. Acts 3:15
It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Acts 4:10
The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead— whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. Acts 5:30,31
They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen .Acts 10:39,40
Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. Acts 13:29-31
He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:31
Now lets dive into some evangelistic preaching of the gospel we find in the book of Acts.